James Forsyth

Laughs, politics and sincerity

Laughs, politics and sincerity
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The opening of the Queen’s speech debate is, traditionally, a light-hearted affair. Peter Lilley opened up with a rather witty speech. He compared the Liberal Democrats to the bastards of the Major Cabinet, it is better to have them inside the Cabinet pissing out than outside the Cabinet pissing in. He went on to warn the new Prime Minister that the appropriate response to John Major and Gordon Brown’s microphone troubles is not to turn your microphone off but to keep ‘your receiver switched on to hear legitimate concerns.’ David Cameron would be well advised to heed this tactfully-expressed advice. Lilley ended with a heart-felt plea to bring the troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

After Don Foster had seconded the Loyal Address, Harriet Harman spoke on behalf of the opposition. She had a couple of rather good gags, characterising the 55 percent rule as a ‘political pre-nup’ for the coalition partners and joking that the Lib Dem attempt to hang on to the money normally given to opposition parties made them the first people to ‘try and cling to the trappings of opposition.’ Harman concluded with a powerful section on why those accused of rape should not be able to maintain their anonymity. I don’t agree with her on this point, but one can’t help but be impressed by her passion and sincerity.

Cameron’s speech was political from the off. He criticised Harman for not apologising for the mess Labour had left the public finances in, said the only ‘golden rule was never to trust Labour with our economy’ and rounded it off by noting that ‘they don’t even know the damage they did.’ There were a few laughs in the speech but one of Cameron’s skills on these occasions is to remember that it is most important what the country hears not what the House hears. I suspect that Cameron’s performance means that the clips on the Six will be the ones that the Tories wanted.